Last Night, My Country Told Me I Don't Matter — Today, I'm Telling You I Do

NEW YORK, NY - NOVEMBER 09: People react to the voting results at Democratic presidential nominee former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's election night event at the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center November 9, 2016 in New York City. Clinton is running against Republican nominee, Donald J. Trump to be the 45th President of the United States. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)
Source: Win McNamee/Getty Images News/Getty Images

Last night, America confirmed that I do not matter. That I should be judged or valued not on the content of my character or the content of my work, but on my face, my bust, how much I weigh, whether or not I am an eating machine. As a woman, I’m aware of my body on a daily basis — in what spaces it is safe, and in which places it is susceptible to catcalls, harassment, or threats. 

Last night, America told me that my body is not safe anywhere, because it is presidential to joke about sexual assault. It is presidential to be accused of sexual assault. It is presidential to rate women based on their appearance. It is presidential to believe your wife’s place is in the home, not the workplace. It is presidential to bully, harass, and intimidate those who do not agree with you. 

My country told me last night that my life as a working, professional woman is only going to get harder, not easier. Being a professional woman means constantly negotiating and monitoring the ways in which you conduct yourself so that you do not fit straight, white males' preconceived notions of a hysterical woman, an angry woman, an emotional woman — and further the stereotype that is already ingratiated when they meet you. 

My country told me last night that my body isn't mine, that it's subject to constant scrutiny. That I must worry constantly about what I wear  not because I’m vain or self-absorbed or shallow, but because I want to be taken seriously by my peers and not call attention to parts of my body which might elicit unwanted comments like the ones we’ve heard from President-Elect Donald Trump throughout this election season.

To simply exist in my body right now feels political, as I don’t know, come January, what rights I’ll still have. That might seem hyperbolic to some, but that is the way it feels.

It is exhausting to negotiate my body every day. It is exhausting as a woman to be in a public space every day when misogyny is normalized. To wonder every time another woman is sexually assaulted or raped and another Brock Turner gets a free pass, Who would believe my story? Who would believe my truth?

To simply exist in my body right now feels political, as I don’t know, come January, what rights I’ll still have. That might seem hyperbolic to some, but that is the way it feels. To simply exist in a public space right now, whether at my university or on this page, feels political. I am but one voice among many who recognizes the deeply ingrained sexism, xenophobia, and racism etched within the furrows of our society. To write the words on this page is a privilege in and of itself. This privilege does not escape me. 

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My country told me last night that millions of my fellow Americans have the privilege of casting a vote that will only benefit people who earn or look or live like them. But that privilege costs my friends of color, my friends who identify as LGBTQ, and my friends who exist as female in the world. 

My voice is the only tool I have to fight against systematic oppression —  but exercising one’s voice, as a woman, can bring on death threats or rape threats. To open my mouth, to pen the words on the page, is an act of solidarity with other women, but it is also an act of risk. It is a risk I'm willing to take, and that all of us must try to take together. 

I am everything Susan B. Anthony dreamed I couldn’t be. I am pierced by the realities of the world we live in more acutely than ever before. I was with her because I am her. I am public, I am political, I am the whirling dervish of pure poetry you will never tame. Last night, my country told me I do not matter. Today, I’m telling you I do.

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